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View Full Version : How Do We Assess 1942-45 Wartime Baseball Records


barrysloate
01-13-2011, 12:24 PM
We often discuss the difficulty of comparing one era of baseball records to that of another, since circumstances change drastically over time. One of those eras whose records were always suspect to me were those recorded between 1942 and 1945, when so many key major leaguers were lost to the war. And there is a particular game that made me think of this.

I recently looked up a boxscore on Retrosheet that is clearly one of the oddest major league games ever played. On April 30, 1944, the New York Giants beat the Brooklyn Dodgers 26 to 8. Not only did the Giants batters receive 17 walks, but two of their players- Phil Weintraub and Ernie Lombardi- combined for 18 RBI's! While HOFer Lombardi's 7 seems feasible, Weintraub's 11 makes absolutely no sense. Here is a player who had a short and unremarkable career having one of the most prodigious games in history! Could that have happened in a non-wartime year? I would say it would have been nearly impossible.

This game aside, how do baseball historians assess these seasons, and how legitimate are the records?

100backstroke
01-14-2011, 11:03 AM
Kind of a tangent to this topic -

Bob Feller's career numbers would be off the chart if he didn't give up years to WWII - could very likely be in consideration for top 3 to 5 pitchers ever played!

Of course all the other players who missed years - Dimaggio, Williams, etc.

And for those who DID play - one cannot take the stats too seriously.

D. Bergin
01-14-2011, 11:55 AM
As a Yankees fan I was aware of the great seasons Spud Chandler had during the wartime years.

A name I had not even heard of until I just did some research for an item was Claude Passeau of the Cubs. From 1940-45 he won 100 games, went to several All-Star games and pitched a one-hit shutout in the 1945 World Series against the Tigers (who by then had gotten Hank Greenberg back), only giving up a 2nd inning single to Rudy York.

I'm sure many of you guys have heard of him, but it humbled me a bit that a guy like this with several significant years and achievements had gone completely under my radar for so long. Wartime era or not.

sayhey24
01-14-2011, 01:28 PM
Mark Whiten's careeer was unremarkable (but not short), and he had 12 RBI in one game in 1993.

I'm glad someone brought up the topic of years lost during the war -- it leads to one of my favorite Hall of Fame debates -- should borderline players be given credit for the years they lost to WWII? I think the answer is absolutely yes -- we're not talking about years lost to injury or personal problems, these years were lost as part of the greatest generation serving their country.
There aren't many players involved here when talking about HOF contenders -- the two most notable are Cecil Travis and Mickey Vernon, both of whom almost certainly would have compiled lifetime numbers that would have put them in the Hall had it not been for their service to their country.

Greg
http://www.baseballbasement.com

barrysloate
01-14-2011, 02:17 PM
Mark Whiten's 4 HR and 12 RBI was equally bizarre.

Another oddity was the St. Louis Browns 1944 pennant. Not one of the all-time great teams.

David W
01-14-2011, 04:08 PM
Not all the good players were gone all 4 years. Musial only missed 1 year for example, while his teammate Slaughter missed 3.

So I think the last years of 1944 and 1945 were more suspect, in that more and more players were drafted or enlisted.

Hal Newhouser went 54 and 18 in 1944 and 45, won 2 MVP's, had 2 other outstanding years and was put in the Hall of Fame with a mediocre record other than that.

I agree Mickey Vernon and Cecil Travis may have made the Hall without missing years, Vernon missed 2 years and easily 300 hits. Ironically, the 2nd most comparable player to Vernon is Enos Slaughter, who got in the HOF, I assume because of his dash to the plate in the 46 series, and being given credit apparently for 3 lost WW2 seasons, while Vernon and Travis seemingly get no credit

On another note, Willie Mays missed most of the 52 and all of the 53 season in the military. Conservatively it cost him 50 homeruns, probably more. He might have broken Ruth's record before Aaron.

D. Bergin
01-23-2011, 12:10 PM
What about guys who's Major League opportunities were all but killed by the conflict.

I just ran across a guy named Les Fleming in the Indians farm system. He only had one full season in the majors in 1942. Pretty damn good year to.

Then it looks like he got shipped off and was never the same on a major league level after that.

Check out his minor league stats. They are somewhat eye-popping. Not only was he a power guy, but he hit for high average and was an OBP machine who walked far more often then he struck out. What's sad was he had actually proven he could hit major league pitching his one full year in the league. He was still tearing up the minors when he was 40 years old.